Schrock: Bears did Jenkins disservice with handling of camp absence originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
LAKE FOREST – Teven Jenkins spoke Saturday for the first time after a seven-practice absence at Bears training camp.
Jenkins' eight-minute media availability included 32 questions for the young tackle about his injury, trade rumors, and his status with the new regime.
During that time, one answer stuck out in particular.
"Life is hard," Jenkins said when asked how it felt to see and hear all the things said about him and his future with the Bears over the past week.
The Bears didn't make it any easier on the 24-year-old tackle.
Head coach Matt Eberflus' insistence on being non-descript about injuries deemed "day-by-day" painted Jenkins into a corner before he stepped to the dais Saturday at Halas Hall.
Over the last week, Eberflus refused to discuss Jenkins' health issue, which makes little sense given it's an injury deemed minor in early August.
There was no comment from Eberflus or general manager Ryan Poles about their widely reported interest in trading the 2021 second-round pick. I don't expect the Bears to respond to every rumor, but they could have gone deeper on Jenkins' future with the team than having offensive coordinator Luke Getsy say Jenkins could compete for a spot when he's back.
Ever since the Bears bumped Jenkins to the second team late in the OTA period, they have tried to maintain the charade that Jenkins is still in the starting tackle mix despite the signing of Riley Reiff and the elevation of Braxton Jones.
Over the past week, the Bears have been purposefully evasive about Jenkins. That's their stance on all injuries seen as "day-by-day," but they could have lessened the pressure on Jenkins on Saturday by simply divulging something about the minor injury.
A simple "he's dealing with a sore X" and will be back soon would have been enough to help Jenkins out. Even an opaque "we view him as part of our plans," whether true or not, would have been something.
Instead, the Bears sent Jenkins to the media to face questions he didn't want to or couldn't address.
Jenkins didn't want to "disclose" his injury issue, whether his back was healthy, or the conversations he had with his agent about the trade rumors.
The first time Jenkins talked to the media this offseason, he was smiling and laughing while he spoke about doing Pilates and eating BBQ.
Saturday, he was different. The situation clearly has taken a toll on him, and the Bears' handling of his training camp absence hasn't helped.
Jenkins noted his fiancée has helped him deal with a lot of the mental strain he has been under, given the constant noise about his situation.
Jenkins didn't have a lot of answers Saturday. That's understandable. Many of those questions should have been answered before he stepped to the podium. They weren't all his to answer.
The NFL is a business. It can sometimes be cruel. But it's important to remember Jenkins is a 24-year-old who is trying to make his NFL dreams stick. Having your future the topic of conversation on television, radio, podcasts, and social media can't be an easy thing to shrug off.
The Bears don't owe it to him or the media to divulge answers on everything. They aren't going to come out and say they are shopping him or he doesn't have a future in Chicago. That would disintegrate any little leverage they might have.
But they could have been more open about an injury they claim isn't severe. Given that Jenkins is back on the field and ramping up, that very well might be the case. Given that he's a tackle who has already had back surgery, being a little more transparent on the issue would have been good for all sides: Jenkins, the team, and the media.
I felt for Jenkins on Saturday. The Bears gave him no cover, throwing him out there to bat away questions they refused to answer.
In the long run, it's not a big deal. But it was a tough, joyless scene to be part of Saturday. One that didn't have to be that way.